Teachers put training into action

Krystle Wagner • Oct 27, 2016 at 11:00 AM

As students read independently, they used little spoons to “scoop” up more words to help them read more fluidly.

The activity was part of a mini-lesson in that day’s reading workshop in Mary Goodin’s first-grade class at Holmes Elementary School. Goodin, along with fellow Spring Lake educators Mary Cotterall, Megan Dean, Julie Kitchel and Kelly Ortquist, are putting into action what they learned during a weeklong Teachers College Reading and Writing Projects institute at Columbia University this past summer.

At the institute, they learned about literacy workshops to ensure each child understands the lessons, and it helps meet students where they’re at academically.

Although Goodin piloted the program last year, she said attending the institute in New York helped her see how she could apply what she learned into the units of instruction.

Goodin said attending the conference also allowed her and other educators to meet and talk about implementing what they learned into their teachings.

Previously, Spring Lake schools adopted the Lucy Calkins’ Reading Units of Study. Goodin said they had already used the Lucy Calkins writing program, and she thought the reading component looked “fabulous” and “dove tails” into the writing.

According to the Lucy Calkins way, balanced literacy program is composed of a reading workshop, shared reading, word study, interactive writing, writing workshop and reading aloud “with accountable talk.”

During the reading workshop, the teacher presents a mini-lesson to recap what they worked on the previous day and introduce that new lesson, said Cotterall, a literacy coach for Spring Lake Public Schools.

Once the teacher gives an example of the lesson, students repeat and practice the lesson. Then, they re-group to talk about the lesson once more before setting off to practice on their own.

During independent reading, the teacher meets individually with students to see where they’re at on the skill. If needed, the teacher pulls small flexible groups of students who need additional assistance.

In small groups, the point is to be brief, engaging for students and focus on students doing the work.

If students don’t need further assistance, the teacher gives them a compliment and a challenge to help them continue growing and learning.

Students also work with partners to reinforce and encourage the new lesson.

Then, the class meets back together to share what they learned.

The workshop method is a way to meet each child where they’re at, provide support to students needing more assistance, and give different opportunities to students who don’t need as much help.

Goodin said this type of instruction is more explicit and units build on each other and it connects the lessons, and noted that the units also help make the content more understandable.

“I am amazed at what the kids can do,” she said.

To attend the conference, the teachers received grants from the Marion K. and Ruth K. Sherwood Family Fund, Mary Ann Sherwood Families and Children Field of Interest, North Bank Community Fund, Doss Family Fund through the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Carol Martin Grant Foundation, and Spring Lake Public Schools.

Over the course of the next three summers, 41 teachers — every K-5 teacher in the district — and administrators will attend the institute.

Although some funding will be given through the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the district will provide some funding, and Cotterall will raise the remainder of the funds.

While students are practicing their skills in the classroom, there are opportunities for them to continue at home. Goodin said students can continue reading, and she also sends newsletters home about mini-lessons so parents can ask their children about what they’re learning.

In the future, Goodin said she hopes to see students who love reading, but also have a great comprehension of what they read, and that they become “fabulous writers.”

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